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Officials claim mud won’t dampen commencement

The words "dust bowl" bring to mind barren areas of the Midwest during the Great Depression. 

But the words "mud bowl" could well describe the current appearance of Kenan Memorial Stadium, the site planned to host this spring's commencement ceremony.

The field at Kenan Stadium has been ripped up in order to replace a 75-year-old storm water drainpipe, said Kevin Best, a spokesman for the Department of Athletics.

Construction is set to be complete the week before graduation, Best said. But, with the recent wintry weather and skepticism about construction deadlines, some seniors are concerned that the field may not be ready for their ceremony. 

“Construction always seems to run overtime,” senior Molly Cowen said. “I would be frustrated if commencement was relocated because I feel like graduating in Kenan is such a quintessential UNC experience.”

Mike Bunting, assistant director for facility planning and management for the athletics department, said the weather did slow the process, but there should be no problem with finishing in time for graduation.

“We are prepared to work nights, weekends — whatever it takes to be ready in time for commencement,” Bunting said. 

The process is straightforward, Bunting said. 

The old pipe was beginning to fail and was too small. Contractors are simply replacing the drainpipe, which has already been done, and then rebuilding the grass field on top of it, Bunting said. The University, not the athletics department, is funding this project. 

This project comes in a year with plenty of other construction at UNC. Construction on the quad has been ongoing for months, and some seniors are unhappy with the aesthetic of parts of campus so close to their departure. 

“It’s sort of irritating because it’s my last year, and it does take away from the beauty of the quad,” senior Victoria Viverette said. “But it’s still a beautiful campus regardless.”

Viverette said she is concerned about the project in Kenan running past the deadline because that has happened with the quad construction. She said she would be very disappointed if graduation had to be moved because of poor planning. 

University spokeswoman Karen Moon confirmed in an email that there is no backup location for the ceremony.

Senior Alan Snyder said he hopes the University was careful in planning the project so close to commencement.

“Hopefully they took all factors into consideration, but I doubt they accounted for the snow,” Snyder said. “I would be angry if my graduation wasn’t in Kenan, unless they outdid themselves with something really unique.”

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